In the face of global uncertainty and turmoil during the last eighteen months, many of us came together to find strength and solace in various forms of “community.” Around the world, people wrote, logged in, and marched, connecting in new ways to old friends and finding new partners in a common cause. It is this drive that nonprofits must connect with on GivingTuesday — the drive to create partnerships and building engagements.
Giving days are always about securing buy-in from prospective donors — buy-in of not only the cause itself but of the day’s fundraising goals. As prospects see organizations’ campaigns and progress toward their goals unfold in real time, they realize that the day’s outcome hinges on their sense of community: Do they care enough about the cause to give? Are they engaged enough to share this ask on social media? Do they feel a sense of pride when a milestone is reached or a match is achieved? While the goalpost in fundraising often is seen as the gift itself, on a giving day — especially GivingTuesday, when the nonprofit arena is loud and chaotic — the goal has to be more than the gift. The goal has to be advocacy on your behalf — that is, amplifying and validating your organization’s message and mission.
Achieving that goal requires careful preparation and extensive planning by development staff in the leadup to GivingTuesday. Here are a few steps nonprofits can take to advocate for themselves, expand their communities, and strengthen donor engagement.
Step 1: Enlist help
The best advocate for an organization’s mission is someone the prospective donor trusts and respects. Peer-to-peer and volunteer campaigns use your nonprofit’s existing community to serve as trusted advocates. By providing your constituents with the right tools, your organization will reach more people and be judged more favorably.
Peer-to-peer and volunteer campaigns vary widely based on the size of the fundraising shop and type of organization. Will your campaign ask your existing community of supporters to conduct outreach, with development staff supplying lists of prospective donors to volunteers? Or will your volunteers be expected to leverage their own networks, expanding your organization’s visibility and reach? Higher education institutions and membership organizations may prefer the former, while other types of organizations may prefer the latter, but the success of all volunteer campaigns depends on the tools you provide.
Arm your volunteers with information about the organization, its mission, and its future. Provide pre-written social media posts, emails, and phone scripts. Supply “frequently asked questions” and answers. Make your case for their partnership, inform and inspire your volunteers, and then empower them to do the same. In the crowded space of GivingTuesday, those volunteers can cut through the noise to reach constituents or prospective donors.
In addition to volunteers, digital technology is essential to the success of a giving day campaign. Nonprofits increasingly have turned to dedicated technology to manage and support peer-to-peer campaigns to reduce the burden on development staff. For example, at my organization, Operation Smile, volunteers can create their own Smile Fund via an automated process that generates a customized webpage with compelling assets they can share across their social media channels. These customized pages provide reporting on donors while offering a significant opportunity for personalized advocacy by volunteers.
Step 2: Engage early
Like any good event, your GivingTuesday fundraiser should offer previews. Get your community excited! Launch a GivingTuesday subpage on your website with a countdown clock and a compelling case for making a donation and spreading the word. Mail a postcard, send an email, or post on social media, highlighting your organization’s excitement to see the community come together. Share your goals for the day and how reaching these goals — together, with their help — will propel your organization and its mission forward.
Step 3: Engage often
On GivingTuesday, emails will flood inboxes before the sun comes up. In a sea of asks, the strongest communications will tell a cohesive story of how the donor can serve as a true partner in furthering the organization’s mission.
Set realistic, achievable monetary and participation goals for the day. Parsing your goals out into smaller milestones throughout the day creates a sense of urgency and builds momentum. Set the most achievable milestones for the beginning of the day, which will help your team and the wider community build on the momentum of those early wins.
To be effective, those smaller milestones will require authentic, real-time communication throughout the day. While some communications can be pre-scheduled, active engagement with your audience feels more authentic and builds on the sense that you are working together in support of a cause. Having pre-approved sample posts and emails ready to edit will reduce the stress of the day while empowering your development team to engage authentically with your community.
At the same time, make it easy for your donors to share their excitement and become an advocate for your organization. Encourage them to re-post on social media and forward emails. After someone makes a donation, provide language for them to post the news on their own social networks.
While GivingTuesday offers an opportunity for your community to come together, that drive for collective effort doesn’t disappear as the day ends. After successfully engaging community members for GivingTuesday, it is critical for nonprofits to continue that engagement. Thank your volunteers, advocates, and donors. Share your results, highlighting how their partnership will help your organization achieve its mission over the coming year, and keep in touch throughout the year to showcase their partnership in action.
Community engagement is at the heart of all nonprofits. From the university with the multibillion-dollar endowment that rallies alumni to raise funds to the small nonprofit that generates revenue from volunteer-led bake sales and basketball games, nonprofit organizations rely on the partnerships and communities they’ve built. As nonprofits work diligently — and often through adverse conditions — to fulfill their missions, these partnerships are integral to the success of their mission. And, as more individuals find meaning in community in the face of global crises, nonprofits must continue to broaden their reach, encourage engagement, and inspire action.
Amanda Lichtenstein is the digital content manager at Operation Smile. She has more than ten years of experience in nonprofit fundraising and communications and holds certificates in fundraising and nonprofit management.